The most important election since the last most important election after the prior most important election previous to this one

I tuned in to some of the leaders debate en francais on TVA this past week and wondered where Maxime Bernier was. It turns out he wasn’t invited to participate, nor was Elizabeth May as neither of their parties has a federal seat in Quebec. A brief scan of a few comment sections/e-opinion toilet turned up no armchair whining about these omissions that I could find. Neither party seemed to be openly whimpering about this specific debate either, unlike the minor tempest that has erupted over the cancelled not-quite-all-candidates debate that was supposed to take place at the University of Guelph.

Never before in the political history of this town has the fringe somehow managed to hold so much sway. The battle for fifth place is so interesting because the struggle for the MP seat can be so incredibly bland at times. Next kick at it, you won’t remember any of them. It’s my job to remind you over the next few years, as I do when I endlessly appeal for Pierre Poutine to come on our show. You are always welcome Pierre and we know you know where to reach me.

totally legit

I love the presence of fringe candidates and have voted for many over the years but never for anyone carrying a heavy load of insidious or just plain wacko baggage. There are times when the hubris of some of the independents can be grating, especially when it devolves into a tiresome, oxygen sucking, showboating yammer. I am not so secretly hoping that the King of the Canadian Election Fringe John Turmel hits the 100 election mark but his grandstanding schtick wore thin years ago. It does take a lot of gumption to challenge The System though, knowing fully well that the energy you expend won’t amount to any degree of hard political success. But never say never.

john turmel

With a bit of digging you will quickly find that every established party started on the margins or was a product of some kind of political divorce and factionalism. Time and experience erases much of this but the origin stories are consistent; there is nothing pure, untouched or holy about any ballot choice, as much as the sales jobs we get during the election period would lead you to believe.

My favourite line I hear ad nauseam on the social these days is that THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIVES! If I had a loonie for every time I’d heard that one I could stuff an offshore bank account full enough to be on top of the Panama Papers list. I may have actually believed it in the not too distant past. As a provincial paper candidate a generation ago for the fledgling fringe party known as the Greens, it was one of my main go-to phrases when called upon to speak about all things Green. At that point, our imminent Earthly collapse was to be the year 2000. We’ve only got a decade to turn it around! I shouldn’t be here! You took my childhood!

I left the Greens long ago to be the pundit in the wilderness you listen to weekly but my bolshie values haven’t really changed all that much. One green, two green, red machine, blue machine, orange crush, francais bloc – in my opinion, at the current rate, we are all still f—ked. Yet somehow, I’ve committed to this volunteer journo job talking politics weekly, blogging sporadically and during elections, it’s darn near daily. Viva democracy!

I hold out some personal faint hope when I see all of the bodies at extrapolitical events such as the climate “strikes” of recent weeks. People have embraced young Greta because she tells it like it is to the faces of those that need to hear it. Her meteoric rise from the fringe to the mainstream has been incredible and hopefully she will be able to survive the fame. It has become fairly clear that our only collective chance at planetary survival is by owning the bakery rather than just demanding and receiving bread of varying quality after THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIVES ends and Doug Ford emerges from his bunker to go back to “work” delivering gut punches to people.

Take it from somebody who has been on many a picket line, your strike needs to be perpetual for it to have a lasting effect, if any at all. The continuous questioning of authority with the goal of upending it is the only way we are going to make it through this modern shitshow. Climb off the comments page, close this blog (but thanks for tuning in), cease your never ending mobile phone prayer and get out into your community and find your functional place in it. The belief that change begins and ends exclusively with the ballot box will be our undoing. What are you waiting for?

independence

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Clowns and Ghosts and Niqabs, oh my!

As of Sunday morning, 1.6 million people have been to the advanced polls on a holiday weekend when people generally have a bunch of other things to do. A record advanced turn out is expected. It’s a popular belief that people lose interest in elections when they bracket a holiday period or if the weather is crappy. Not so this weekend. Some lines were long and a bit of grumbling is understandable, with accusations of voter suppression not far behind. Thankfully, I was in a shortish line and had a bit of time to get caught up with a neighbour who always works at a poll. We high fived when I cast my ballot. The atmosphere was calm and respectful, a very Canadian scene with lots of thank yous and unnecessary use of the word “sorry”. The greeter outside was looking after a friendly little terrier who was not allowed into the zone. No word on which party has the best canine policy.

When the first flood of links popped up to stories of people dressing up to go and vote, I immediately assumed that it was in solidarity with Zunera Ishaq, the reluctantly famous woman who fought and won the right to become Canadian while wearing a niqab. Upon reading them I realized that even we die hard politicos get it incredibly wrong sometimes. She will likely eventually head to ballot box with her face covered, which has prompted the fancy dress from others in protest. Clowns, ghosts, mummers and a woman wearing a potato sack have all exercised their primary democratic right so far. Attempts to whip the masses into a frenzy of rage have clearly failed. If you show your ID and swear an oath that it is indeed you behind the gear – you’re good to go. You have every right to look as fabulous or idiotic as you want. Let’s have the next election on Hallowe’en. Bowls of candy will insure more record numbers. The Pirate Party will win the costume parade hands down.

clown

Last week, a steady line of mostly young advanced voters graced the University Centre at U of G. In a new twist, the students were given the option this year of voting either locally or in their home ridings. Guelph’s on-campus special ballot in 2011 became infamous, as it was where Conservative operative Michael Sona made his first appearance in that campaign, raising a very public pre-robocall stink in the UC that may have been a bit of foreshadowing. This year, all was calm. Voting ran for four days and the line was longish so they formed two eventually. We old timers get a bit grumpy at the prospect of a long wait but for the young ones, having fully trained for such occasions in velvet rope night club situations or add/drop lines, would not be deterred. I witnessed at least one woman in a head covering, raring to go. No one blinked.

I have found that most of those who chronically complain about the government don’t bother to vote, with the most common excuse being “they are all the same”.  I usually last about one political conversation with anyone that admits to this, which usually ends in me telling them if that’s the reason they don’t vote, they need to shut the fuck up. I know lots of people that don’t vote that have a deep seated political reason not to and I respect that fully. One better is to show up and officially decline, which is also well within your rights. It can sow a bit of confusion though; a friend of mine was told when asking to exercise this option a few years ago that he should just spoil his ballot as it’s the same thing. It definitely isn’t and he held firm, not leaving until it was done. Numbers of declined generally don’t make the news, nor do the hundreds of fringe candidates on the margins, unless they are doing something interesting or wacky. But it’s all part of the process and every bit of it counts.

The big day is closing in fast.  You’ve probably heard enough at this point and have made up your mind. You may have already done the deed or are still thinking it over. Either way, please join the Open Sources team on election night from 8pm on, either on 93.3FM, live streamed at www.cfru.ca or in person at The Bullring until closing time (11pm). We should know by midnight who has got the gig. Congratulations in advance on doing your part to make the wheels turn.

lying pieces

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-election-2015-advance-poll-numbers-1.3266556

http://www.thespec.com/news-story/5950230-elections-canada-policy-allows-women-to-wear-niqabs-while-voting/

http://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/5925477-university-of-guelph-students-target-of-elections-canada-special-ballot-pilot-project/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/elections-canada-puts-end-to-special-ballot-voting/article576605/